Hello singers! As you may have read in my previous post, The Best Tips for Tonsillectomy Recovery as a Singer, I had my tonsils & adenoids removed about a month ago & I promised to give a daily account of my experience – The Singer’s Guide to Tonsillectomy Recovery: Day-by-Day. Now, I know this isn’t the most interesting post that I’ve written, especially if you aren’t getting your tonsils removed, but I found reading other people’s daily experiences to be helpful in my recovery. It is comforting to know that someone else experienced the same thing you did. Plus, your doctor will appreciate you reading this as opposed to calling the office every time you cough.
What sets this guide apart from the others is that it is catered toward singers. As a vocalist, I was more cognizant of vocal rest, coughing, & minimizing the use of medication so as to not cause any vocal damage.
So here goes!
D-Day: The day of the surgery. The nurses brought me back for surgery prep around 11:15am. They gave me a robe to change into – ladies, wear full coverage underwear! – Although you stay in bed, the robes are open in the back. I was given an IV, asked questions by two nurses & the anesthesiologist before they brought my mom back to wait with me. MAKE SURE TO REMIND THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST THAT YOU ARE A SINGER AND REQUEST A TINY TUBE! I was wheeled into surgery around 11:45 – I remember getting the “relaxation medicine” and having them start to put a mask on my face and then I was in the post-op room. The procedure was over around 12:00 (or so I was told). My memory came back around 12:15. The nurse asked me some questions – I let myself answer the important questions & then started my vocal rest once my mom came back to sit with me & could talk for me. I wasn’t in pain at this point just very loopy. The nurse gave me Sprite with ice & I chugged it – apparently that is not okay because it could cause vomiting & bleeding….oops. The pain kicked in later that evening once the anesthesia wore off but I made myself take pain medication every four hours to try & prevent extreme pain for as long as possible. I found that if I was drinking ice-cold water (more ice than water), my throat didn’t hurt as much.
Day 1: I barely slept so I was exhausted all day. If I laid down, I felt like I was choking (due to swelling). So, I stayed on the couch for the first 2 nights. It was more comfortable if I propped myself up with pillows. The pain was worse but still not excruciating since I was regularly taking my medication.
Day 2: I slept better but woke up in a lot of pain due to not drinking much overnight. The pain decreased as I took medications & hydrated.
Day 3: I slept in my bed (still propped up) but woke up in pain although I forced myself to wake up every four hours to take medication &, once that kicked in, drink a glass of water. This helped & was a trick I continued for the next week. Pain in & behind my ears was annoying all day but I found that icing below my ear & behind my jaw-line helped decrease the pain. Icing my throat helped as well.
Day 4: I barely slept again – Don’t expect to get a restful night of sleep for the first 5-7 days. I woke up in worse pain than the previous days & learned that if I started my day with a popsicle, my throat was numb enough to hydrate & eat applesauce or other soft foods without too much pain. I took a hot shower & started coughing, which caused slight bleeding in my throat. We called the doctor’s office & were informed that slight bleeding is normal especially after coughing, a hot shower, or warm liquids/food. I was told to gargle ice water to stop the bleeding (a trick that I began to use any time I needed to cough or was in pain), to return to a cold liquid-only diet, & to quit looking at my throat because I was pulling open the wounds. So, DON’T LOOK AT YOUR THROAT! I know it is tempting, but resist. It is gross anyway, trust me.
Day 5: This day had the worst pain yet. All day my head was pounding, my ears hurt, my throat was on fire, & my jaw was killing me.
Day 6: At this point, I was tired of taking pain meds. I didn’t want to become dependent on them & also was just plain-ol’ tired of taking them. Instead, I forced myself to numb my throat with popsicles, gargled ice water throughout the day & only took 2 doses of the medication. I did forget to eat though….Don’t do that.
Day 7: I SURVIVED A WHOLE WEEK! This marked the beginning of the scab phase. The swelling was going down & I woke up lying flat & not choking! BUT the scab phase included feeling them dangling in my throat causing throat tickles. I gargled ice water or sucked on lozenges (without sucrose or menthol) to try to keep from coughing. The headache continued.
Day 8: The throat tickles got worse. . . yay. I woke up once every hour throughout the night trying to stifle coughs. My doctor prescribed a numbing lollipop that I used several times throughout the night & gargled ice water – all to no avail. I also had a headache all day – fourth day in a row. BUT I SPOKE! It was uncomfortable but I was able to do it! Due to my uvula still being swollen, I felt like my throat was closing when I phonated so I did my best to properly support my voice (using my diaphragm) & pitch my voice slightly higher to prevent vocal fry. I didn’t talk much but I slowly started to incorporate it back into my life. Plus, I only took pain medication once.
Day 9: I talked more & ran errands with my mom. I still would not drive since I was occasionally taking pain medications & did not want to be a danger to myself or others. At this point, I was taking pain medication 1-2 times a day, if at all.
Day 10: I finally slept laying flat & did not take pain medication during the day. Dangling scabs were gross & annoying.
Day 11: I only needed pain medication first thing in the morning since I slept through the night & therefore did not hydrate for 7 hours.
Day 12: I started eating normal food – still nothing super hard like chips – but I found as long as I chewed food a lot, I could get it down easily. And I SANG! I hummed two arpeggios in middle voice & I sounded vocally healthy! Those two arpeggios wore me out, in addition to speaking, so I stopped humming & decided to slowly increase arpeggios daily.
This is where I stopped taking notes about my progress. From Day 12 on, I continued to improve. Now, one month later, I am able to speak as much as I want, eat whatever I want, & BELT! I don’t have as much vocal stamina or range as I used to but that is to be expected. Especially since I didn’t phonate for a week, didn’t hum for 12 days, & didn’t fully sing for about 17. Although, I could have done some singing before Day 17 but I was a chicken.
So what have I noticed about my voice since the surgery?
I have slightly more resonance – thank you, extra space! When I sing, I have to remind myself to widen my soft palate. Now that I have extra space, I naturally feel like it’s wider although I’m not actually doing anything. I have to remember that although I naturally have more space, I still need to create openness while singing. The more space the merrier!
I hope this play-by-play of my experience gives you some valuable insight, guidance, & comfort for your upcoming tonsillectomy. Comment below with any tips or questions you might have!